[Tech Talk] Instagram adds Collage Maker ‘Layout’ to its Arsenal of Apps

If a picture can speak a thousand words, then over the past few years Instagram has become an anthology of the modern personality.  From adorable pictures of animals to decadent, delicious meals, the latest and greatest in fashion and music and let’s not forget the exponential amount of selfies, Instagram has made a monumental name for itself in the world of smart phone applications; doubly so once they were acquired by Facebook.As the iPhone upgraded it’s photo and video services, the application paralleled in kind – offering up Hyperlapse as a keen alternative to the iOS’s native time lapse video recording services. Back when it was rolled out, this was incredibly important since any iPhone TimeLapse would invariably be converted to a real time video once it was loaded into Instagram.

I don’t know about you guys, but between cats and concerts – I happen to use a ton of collages, there a wonderful way to wrap up a weekend, pay your respects to a group of friends or simply embarrass just one on their birthday; and let me tell you, there are a ridiculous amount of applications that simply aren’t as seamless. Just off the top of my head, there’s PicStitch, PicCollage, InstaCollage and my typical go-to PhotoGrid. I’m a huge fan of the PhotoGrid because unlike the others it doesn’t have an irritating watermark, you can pick your pictures before your layout, there’s tons of structured – and free form – grids to choose from and you can adjust the color of the grid itself, using any pigmentation you want – even another image.  In all honesty, it was only a matter of time before Instagram reached out and adjusted for the needs of their market.

For anyone who’s been perusing their iOS App Store as of late, Instagram has added a third application to their photography arsenal just yesterday morning. Introducing Layout – a simple, clean application perfect for any and all of your photo collage-ing needs.  It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of ‘heart’ or ‘star’ shaped layouts, but it does offer up a tab to just view the pictures with ‘Faces’ on your camera roll and suggests layouts as you select your favorite images. Once you’ve chosen a set layout, you can mirror, rotate, flip, push and pull on your images – showcasing your favorite features and hiding the rest.  So far, the app is only available in the Apple Store, but hopefully it’ll be rolled out to Android soon!

For those of you who haven’t played around with it, let me show you how it all goes down!

  

Show me some of your collage-creations!

[Get Your Earth Day On]

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

 Kurt Vonnegut

There are currently over 200 Million active users on Instagram and between the lot of us, we load about 60 Million snaps a day, amassing over 20 billion pictures to date; of those 20 Billion, about .2% – or 40 Million – are #selfies,a term that as of last year -not only made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, but was nominated ‘word of the year.’  Last year, the Smart Phone Market overran the PC Market with over 1.75 Billion Smart Phone users in the world, including 56% of Americans –  up from 35% 2 years ago. Of the 1.25  Billion Facebook users, roughly 25% play games on the daily.  Since 2012, the number of Americans streaming digital media like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon has gone from half the population to almost 70%, and digital streaming devices can now be found in 14% of American households; up double from 2011.  Between new developments in gaming systems, social media and technology, it’s become all too easy for the majority of us (including myself) to forget that there’s this amazingly wonderful planet that we have the opportunity to explore. I firmly believe that each day is a new chance to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you, and that goes doubly so for today, Earth Day. Today’s a day to be in awe of your surroundings, fully immerse yourself in your environment, and celebrate the beauty that surrounds you – a day to honor your relatives, both ancestors and those to come, by embracing nature and all it has to offer; and I hope more people choose to pay attention to the details and take the time to smell the flowers.  As tied in as I find myself with all things internet – from my addiction to House of Cards to my love of Caturday pictures, I’ve felt an extreme need to detach myself from these chains that masquerade as wifi signals and find some real, personal connection with my surroundings. Back in 1969, a young environmental activist named John McConnell found himself in front of the UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, pleading with peers and mentors alike that the world deserves a day to both honor the idea of peace and rejoice in the Earth’s beauty – and the year after, Earth Day was born.  In almost half of a century, the event has manifested from a local, California event into a global masterpiece in over 190 countries.There are ample amounts of Earth Day festivities around the globe that you can take part in, but if you want to do something on a smaller and more personal scale – try these on for size:

  • Ditch your wheels! Head out on foot, with skates, on a bike or with public transportation – did you know that there are some gorgeous smelling flowers just three blocks away from your house? Well, now you do!
  • Shop local and try out the Farmer’s Market around the corner or the Mom and Pop shop on the corner
  • Take a thick book into a lush park and don’t return until you’re halfway done; set your imagination free and leave your cell on silent
  • When you’re with company – do the polite thing and turn off your phone, or as a baby step – try just your mobile network. When you’re with good company; not like you need to see how many likes that rant on Facebook got you while you’re enjoying your surroundings, right?
  • Get off the grid and explore – find a new hike or walk in your neighborhood; activity loves company so call a friend or three and get your endorphins pumping
  • Help record the sound of our planet with Global Soundscapes
  • Replace your mobile gaming with a physical board game – or active sports – and invite some friends over for some friendly in person competition
  • Turn off anything with an electronic pulse and cultivate some creativity; arts and crafts shouldn’t just be for elementary school!

Tech Tuesday: Instagram Web Profile Preview

Instagram Web Profiles Coming Soon!

The camp over at Instagram Headquarters seems to have been hard at work as of late.  After their billion dollar acquisition over the Summer, I think most people with an eye on either company were expecting big changes on the Facebook mobile end of things.  Specifically, a better camera equipped with filters and a more streamlined uploading system.  What I didn’t expect – but adore – is the upcoming addition of accessible web profiles for Instagram pages.

I, for one, am a huge fan of this idea.  When I started using Instagram last April, the only frustrating thing about the mobile app was that there was no clean or simple way to view a users  picture trail.  For the last six months or so, I’ve been using a great website called Statigram.  At the most basic level it organizes your pictures in a simple fashion, adds categories to pictures and lets the user group their followings however they choose.  It’s also much easier to search for people and hashtags compared to the mobile Instagram application.

From the looks of it (see  below), the Instagram web profile is a marriage of Statigram and Facebook. The pictures are organized in precisely the same fashion with the images in chronological order; the newest image  first and then time increases as you wind left and down the page.  All other elements of the profile are almost replicated from Facebook: the header image is eerily similar to the cover photo we’re now used, the user photo is in the same exact place, and the tally of photos, following and followers takes the place of the types of elements in our Facebook profiles (Photos, Friends, etc…).

All in all, I’m a huge fan and can’t wait until my profile is rolled out to me! However, over time I’d think maintaining independent Facebook and Instagram profiles would become fairly redundant – especially when they look so damn similar.  It would only make sense that overtime, our Facebook  Timeline would incorporate our Instagram Web Profile, which would then render it obsolete.

Tech Tuesday: Do You Have Klout?

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Venn Diagram of Social Media

In this day and age, it’s become slightly tiresome to stay on top of all the Social Media Trends; there are just so many ways you can connect with people that websites can either become redundant, overwhelming or in the most severe cases – both.  Several of my friends coyly admitted that they’ve become discouraged to use social media because it’s just “too much” for them to want to handle (their words, not mine).  And to a point, I completely agree with them.  How you pick and choose your social networking sites is slightly analogous to picking where to sit at lunch during your first day at a new school; your environment, the information you choose to share and the connections you cultivate are all indicative of this choice.  Each Social Media site that I use has their eerie similarities, but also pronounced differences.

Everyone and their mom’s dog has a Facebook and at a very base level understands the purpose: sharing your life and ideas with a predetermined group of people and one rarely exceeds the 420 character limit of a status update.  With the new “Subscribe” option, one could make their Facebook relatively public – but I know very few non-Celebrities that have ascribed to this.

A website like Path is similar to Facebook with the types of things you can share – music, links, photos – but you’re limited to engaging a group of roughly 150 people. Why this number you ask?  Well, I’ll tell ya – it’s because of Dunbar’s Number, which basically states that the number of people one can maintain a social, stable relationships with is somewhere between 100 and 250, but scholars believe it’s at about 150.

And then there’s Twitter – you can elicit control over your audience by toggling whether you want your page public or private; at a basic level, hink of these two options as either the Facebook option or the Path option.  When public, anyone and everyone can read, and search for, your tweets – while private, your tweets are only seen by a select audience that you allow. Twitter is wonderful for being succinct and witty, but any and all responses are limited to 140 characters.

I love examples, so let’s throw a few out:

Let’s say you want to share a link to an important cause (the upcoming election, Superstorm Sandy, adorable kittens, etc)….

  • Do you have an opinion you’d like to share?  If so, something like Path, a blog like WordPress or Tumblr (or Blogspot…or Xanga…or, well, you get the picture) or Facebook is your best bet. If not, you could simply post your link to Twitter with the title of the article.
  • Do you have an audience that you’re trying to reach (or, avoid)?  If you want the biggest reach, I’d lean towards a public Twitter profile;  if you’re only interested in your pre-existing social circle, go for Facebook; and if you want your post to reach a niche crowd, go for Path.

Let’s say you’re out to eat at an amazeballs restaurant and want to share your meal with your friends…

  • Do you want to post a picture of it?  Then navigate towards Instagram – snap your shot and share away at your leisure.
  • Are you eating with long lost friends? Check the group into Foursquare or Facebook – hell, even post that picture you took with Instagram while you’re at it.
  • Did you have the best time ever and want to tell everyone how ridic the food and service were?  Log into Yelp and write a formal review of your swanky time

When you’re part of one or two sites – it’s fairly easy to understand the entirety of your audience:  if your Twitter account is private and you don’t allow subscribers on Facebook, you have an excellent idea of who your target audience is when you post.  But what if you’re playing a juggling act with social media accounts here there and everywhere?  That’s when you use Klout.  Klout takes someone from a Social Media Queen to the Social Media Queen Bee by aggregating data from a number of measured social networks

When I joined Klout a little over a year ago, I had no clue what I was getting myself into – and adding another social media site that was an aggregate of the others seemed more than redundant.  But, what I’ve discovered over time is that Klout is to Social Media what Google Analytics is to Webpages.  By factoring in multiple social networks, Klout’s goal is to discover how many other users are engaged with each and every post you make, regardless of the source.  Your Klout score is between 1 and 100 and takes into consideration two factors: the topics you’re considered influential on and your social network (the people that influence you as well as the people that you influence).

As of today, these are the Social Media Networks that Klout considers relevant (and as a sidenote, I believe because of it – these are also the most important social media sites to be involved with): Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Youtube, Instagram, Tumblr, Blogspot, WordPress, Last FM and Flickr; however, they’re currently looking to integrate Quora, Yelp, Posterous, Livefyre, Disqus, Bit.ly and BranchOut.

Last, but most definitely not least, there are perks of being involved with Klout.  Those perks aren’t whimsical, idealistic badges (*cough*foursquare*cough*) – they’re actual, tangible, physical, hold them in your hand and covet them Perks and all because you are considered influential!  Below are some of the wonderful ways Klout has thanked me for being a social media maven and I’m beyond blessed to have the opportunity to both enjoy and share them.

Argo Premiere with treats, drinks and delectable snacks!

Fair Trade USA & Klout Perk:
Allegro Whole Coffee Beans
Alter Eco Mini Dark Noir (chocolate bar)
Choice Organic Teas Roobios
Coco Cafe Cafe Latte with Coconut Water and Espresso
Honest Tea Half and Half Organic Tea with Lemonade
Lärabar Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough food bar
Near East Quinoa Blend Rosemary and Olive Oil
Stash Roobios Tea

Klout Perk from Fit Frappe: Samples of each flavor and a huge container of my choosing. Plus, a jumprope!

[Tech Tuesday] Socially Savvy

Back in the day, way back in elementary school, my 4th grade class was given the amazing gift of AOL.  In 2012, I’m sure this doesn’t seem that awesome but back in 1994 this was the jam. At the time, they had one of their headquarters in Palo Alto, one of the cities in the Silicon Valley that I grew up in, and I was lucky enough to have a classmate with parents who worked there.  They waltzed into our class one day when we sat down for “computer lab”, which meant walking to the left side of the classroom and pairing up with a group of friends in front of a Mac II, and loaded the application onto our computers.  At the time, we used AOL to talk to participants in the Iditarod. We talked them up about their dogs, the history of the event and how goshdarn cold it must have been. At the end of the day, we got to take home a trial version, which found permanent places in all of our hearts.

As I grew up, so did the social aspects internet.

AOL introduced the “Chat Room” shortly after my parents signed up; I spent an exorbitant amount of time IMing old friends, making new ones,  manipulating my user profile and enjoying their integrated news and media feeds. AOL turned into AIM and my friends and I branched out into blogging on sites like Xanga, LiveJournal and DeadJournal.  MySpace and Facebook became public around the same time in 2003; only Facebook was still an elite social endeavor, rolling out first to Ivy League schools in 2003. In September of 2004, the beginning of my sophomore year of college, UCSB was added and I dove in head first. The social video sharing site, Youtube, emerged in 2005 and  Tumblr, one of the best microblogs around, made it’s first appearance in 2007.

Tumblr was, and in my opinion still is, the best of all social worlds – I could add Videos from Youtube, news articles from whatever source I chose, audio files, photographs and regular posts. I jumped on the Tumblr bandwagon immediately; I purged through my old posts, transferring some, removing others and ultimately deleting my other blogs.  In 2008,  I finally deleted MySpace and picked up one fabulous internet addiction after the other; first came Twitter, then the onslaught of Yelp, Instagram, Hypem, Foursquare, Spotify, Pinterest, etc, etc. Now, in 2012, Social media is more about promoting the individual – whether it’s a person, band or product – and less concerned with connecting individuals into a community.  On both Twitter and Facebook, brands have the ability to pay for – or promote– posts to larger audiences. But,it’s hard to argue with these tactics as a consumer, since these ventures are (relatively) free.

Over time, the number of nuanced networking sites have grown exponentially and older sites have gone on missions to rebrand themselves, with hopes of both gaining new demographics and restoring popularity amongst new and former users.  Unfortunately, we’ve reached a point where the supply and demand for social networking sites is skewed; when you go and “check in”, do you check in on Facebook? Or do you check in on Foursquare or Yelp and integrate it? As a heavy user, it’s a valid question. The market is more or less over-saturated with social media and it’s forced my generation to pick and choose our battles wisely.

Out of my group of friends, I’d say maybe 5% still use MySpace – and that’s a generous 5%; those that use it primarily go for the music and then don’t find a reason to stay.  But there’s a chance that this could all change!  MySpace has undergone extreme rebranding in attempts to reign users (back) in.  The only question is: with all of the social media ventures that have emerged in the time that MySpace was more or less out of the game, will users care enough to cultivate new interest? If I hadn’t deleted my page, I might be willing to go back – but the idea that I’d have to start from scratch is a major deterrent.

Over in the Tumblr camp, they’re preparing to roll out contact analytics to users come November.  Amongst the tracked metrics are – volume, overall engagement of a post, post performance and reblogging. Currently, it’s in beta – but if you want to get your tumbling little paws in on the action, head over to the Union Metrics website and sign yourself up!

This morning, I was trying to search for a few Twitter friends on Instagram and I was greeted by the following message – “Twitter no longer allows its users to access this information in Instagram via the Twitter API”. Say what?!  Apparently I’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks because this change was implemented back in August.   The good news is that we’re still able to post our pictures to our Twitter account and applications like Foursquare still have API access, but it raises the question – was Instagram banned from the API because they were bought by, and integrated into, Facebook?  Today also marks the launch of the Twitter User Directory, which was added to the bottom of the home page, letting users and non-users alike earch the Twittersphere.

Tech Tuesday: An App a Day keeps the Doctor Away

I’ve always been an Android lover; in fact, I can’t recall ever wanting an iPhone….granted, I’ve also had Verizon Wireless for my entire life so I didn’t exactly have the option of getting an iPhone when it came out…but, I digress.   I’ve watched the Android market evolve and expand over the past few years, and I’m almost in love with what I’ve seen.  The OS has gotten sleeker, potentially even sexier – if you could call an OS sexy, that is. Though the phones have gotten larger in height x length dimension, they’ve also become thinner, lighter and with better quality resolution on the display.  Not to toot the horn for the HTC Rezound, but beepbeep: it boasts the first HD screen for a carried branded phone in the United States.  How you like them apples, Apple?

Now,  originally – one of the great things about the Android phones is the fact that unlike the iPhone – it contains(-ed) Adobe Flash.  I have to phrase it that way because Adobe has decided to discontinue its use after this November, and has started with devices that have already upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich 4.1  One of the draws of having Flash was that you could view any web page in its full entirety.  But who needs fully supported web browsing when there are so many fantastic  applications for the Droid?!

Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming figuring out which ones you should download. Not to mention, how to handle re-downloading applications after upgrading to a new device. Well, first things first -in the Google Play Store you have the option to view every single application you’ve ever downloaded on your phone.  Simply go to the Play Store, toggle the Menu button (the middle left button on the bottom of your phone) to access the pop-up menu and you’ll have an option at the top called “My Apps“.  Click through and swipe your finger from right to left to see “All Applications.”

The pink oval represents an application that was downloaded in the past, paid for even, yet not reinstalled when I upgraded my phone.  The blue oval is an application that’s currently on my Droid.

Now – onto the fun part, the applications. Some of these are pretty straight forward, especially ones for social media and some deserve a little bit of an explanation. The great thing about the Google Play store, is once your Google account is linked to your phone you can actually pick your applications out online in a more hunt and peck friendly atmosphere, and then send them to download on your phone.  It’s pure genius.

Hit the jump for my should have applications, and anything that is in italic or bold is a “must-have” – enjoy!

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[Oh, Snap!] You Stay Classy, San Diego

Ron Burgundy on the origin of ‘San Diego

Don’t let the non-blonde hair or fact I can’t surf fool you, I’m a California girl true and true.  I was born and raised in the Silicon Valley of Northern California, found myself in Santa Barbara for college while I completed my Bachelors of Science and moved to Los Angeles shortly after I got my degree.  When I was in middle school and high school I was on a club basketball team that traveled around California, and it granted me the opportunity to visit and explore many sides of the great, Golden State. And to boot, my family loves to travel.  Combine those two facts, and that’s a lot of location scouting.  Within California alone, I’ve been to: Napa, Sonoma, Walnut Creek, Petaluma, Vallejo, San Francisco, Monterey, Carmel, Los Angeles, San Diego…the list could go on and on; but that’s not the point.   Each time I visited a new place, I would try and envision myself living there – and to this day, the more and more I consider San Diego, the more I’d like to give it a chance to woo me over.

The Gaslamp District at Night
Taken with my HTC Rezound; snazzed up in Instagram using the XPro 2 Filter.

The other weekend, one of my friends suggested a girls trip down to San Diego for a few days – and the offer couldn’t have come at a better time. Los Angeles, that magical city of sunshine and traffic, can grow tiresome if you don’t get the energy to leave every once in a while.

There’s a saying – ‘You never know what youve got until it’s gone.’ – and in a way, that’s how I feel about my city of angels.

 LA is wonderful for nightlife and experiencing different types of culture; from art walks to club experiences, and from warehouse parties to flea markets – LA is a mecca of different cultures that clash and meld all over the city.  But San Diego is equally diverse and spread out over a larger area of land; the air is so breathable – and the views are so stunning.

The Glass Door, San Diego
Taken with my HTC Rezound; stitched together with Diptic.

To be honest – we had thought long and hard about what sorts of shenanigans we wanted to get into in San Diego.  There were discussions of going to the San Diego Wildlife Park or the  Zoo for their Nighttime Zoo: China Celebration, and potentially going out and dancing at Voyeur and Fluxx, two of San Diego’s best night clubs.  But, instead – we had a nice girls weekend in the apartment; venturing out only for nourishment and exercise.

For brunch(/lunch) we consulted Yelp and Metrowize; there were so many great options that it was hard to narrow our sights on just one.  What caught our attention – this article about the Booziest Brunches in San Diego.  I’m a sucker for a kickass Bloody Mary, and let me tell you – this place does it right!  They not only garnish the thing with bacon but they also use bacon infused vodka; genius!

San Diego from a different perspective.
Taken with my HTC Rezound in Instagram; edited using the Lord Kelvin filter.